By Sharon Gaudin
August 14, 2007
For the second time in two months, a security breach at pharmaceutical
giant Pfizer has put the personally identifying information on current
and former employees at risk.
The company, which is the world's largest drugmaker, alerted Connecticut
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of the May theft of two company
laptops containing personal information of 950 people. The earlier
security breach exposed information on 17,000 people.
In a letter to Pfizer employees, Lisa M. Goldman, out of Pfizer's
privacy office, said two password-protected laptops owned by consulting
firm Axia were stolen out of a car in Boston. The information contained
employee names and Social Security numbers.
Letters about the data breach were posted online by TheDay.com. Pfizer
could not be reached for comment.
Bernard Nash, a lawyer representing Pfizer, sent a letter to the state
attorney general on July 20, notifying him of the data breach. He said
the 950 people involved are health care professionals who were or were
considering providing the company with contract services. He also noted
that additional information, such as home addresses, cell phone numbers,
and e-mail addresses, also were compromised.
"All data security incidents are unfortunate, and Pfizer and Axia are
committed to maintaining the confidentiality and security of data," said
Nash in the letter. "Pfizer is working with Axia to improve data
security protections and will apply the lessons learned from this
incident to its work with other contractors and its own employees, as
Blumenthal said in his own letter back to Nash that he has concerns
about the amount of time it took Pfizer to notify people about the
"Given the speed of communications and the possibility that credit card
fraud and identity theft can arise from breaches of personally
identifying information, time is of the essence when notifying
consumers," he added. "The sooner consumers are notified that their
personally identifying information is at risk, the sooner they can
respond and prevent further harm."
Last month, Forbes.com reported that a former Pfizer employee who was
among the 17,000 workers who had their personal information posted
online is suing Pfizer. The suit asks for long-term identity theft
insurance and a fund to pay any damages for all 17,000 people.
Pfizer reported that this spring identifying information on the 17,000
had been accidentally posted online.
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